The top-grossing film of the year so far, Guardians of the Galaxy, brought some much needed fizzy fun to the summer box office — along with a killer soundtrack comprised of feel-good hits from the 1970s. One of the key props in the movie was an ancient Walkman and battered mixtape, and those may have led many a Gen Xer or young Baby Boomer to get all nostalgic for those days when “playlists” were the handwritten track names on the back of the folded card in the cassette-tape case. (They’re so cemented into American pop culture that there’s even a Broadway song about mixtapes in the Tony Award-winning show Avenue Q.)
For some people, the mixtape prop may have posed the question: These days, how do you share a specially curated batch of songs with a loved one, or compile your personal favorite tunes in one time-capsule collection? Cassettes are pretty much extinct; Google Play doesn’t support sending digital media as gifts and you can’t burn songs to CDs there. Apple even removed the Gift This Playlist feature from the current version of iTunes. But there are other ways.
Yes, it’s become a largely streaming world out there, but some popular services like Spotify let users create and share playlists with each other. The 8tracks site has playlist sharing too, as does the appropriately named Mixtape.me site. Other streaming services offer similar tools, so if you already use one, check the feature set to see if sharing playlists is an option. There’s also a site called Tape.ly that does online mix tapes.
If you want a more physical, personal-memento way to share a mix, there’s an Australian-based start-up called Sharetapes that works with services like Spotify, Soundcloud and 8tracks. You can also use Sharetapes with YouTube, a site many people use to make and share playlists of audio and video clips.
With Sharetapes, you create an account and you then buy a pack of blank “Sharetape cards,” five for seven bucks. You make a playlist in a supporting service and click the Record button on the Sharetapes.com site to copy the track information to one of your blank Sharetape cards. Then you give it to someone. The cards have QR codes and also work with NFC-enabled devices, so when your recipient gets the card, he or she can use the QR code or NFC function to zap the info onto a mobile device and hear the tracks on the playlist.
But what if you want to send music mixes to someone who doesn’t use any of the online streaming services? As one might expect, Amazon also lets you send albums or individual songs as gifts.
Even in iTunes 11, you can still send individual song downloads to another iTunes user as gifts; right-click the menu arrow next to the Price button and select Gift This Song. And, while a bit retro these days, you can still burn CDs from songs you’ve bought and downloaded from the service. Once you make a playlist and have it open in iTunes, you can even print a custom CD cover by going to the File menu and choosing Print.
Although there may be copyright issues involved, people have also shared tracks on a playlist by uploading unrestricted MP3 ripped from CDs to online file storage folders or passed them along on flash drives.
So even though cassettes have become fluttery antiques, there are still many ways to share your musical whims with friends and family. And going digital does have its advantages. As the Brotherhood Workshop points out in “LEGO Guardians of the Galaxy: Star-Lord’s Mixtape,” Peter Quill’s homemade audio cassette probably wouldn’t sound too good after 20 years of constant play.